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The fossil remains of dinosaurs and other creatures clearly point to life in an ancient past. But does this mean that the God described in the Bible does not exist?
Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was a major box-office success when it came out in 1993, and the record-breaking performance of its 2015 sequel, Jurassic World, demonstrates that the appeal of its subject hasn’t diminished. Dinosaurs have long intrigued us, and we have wondered about them ever since the first bones were dug out of the ground.
Scientists tell us dinosaurs roamed the earth in the geologic times known as the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, ending—they tell us—about 65 million years ago, and this introduces an important question. Do dinosaurs invalidate the Bible and, by implication, write in stone the death of God?
Young Earth creationists believe that the Bible says the earth and the entire universe are both only 6,000 years old, but the gap between these sincere believers and most scientists is so great that there is no way to bridge it. Furthermore, are we to believe Tyrannosaurus Rex walked beside Adam and Eve? Were brontosaurs brought aboard Noah’s ark, and—if so—why are they not around today?
Here at Tomorrow’s World we believe the Bible, and we believe that all life was created by the God of the Bible, but is it possible that the worldview of many creationists and that of many scientists are both wrong? And is it possible to harmonize the Bible and some of what science has to offer?
Those who follow our Tomorrow’s World television program and who read our magazine and literature know that we reject the Darwinian evolutionary explanation for the origin of the vast array of plant and animal life we see on this planet. We show evidence from highly educated scientists and scholars for rejecting that concept that life evolved as a fortuitous accident of chance and natural selection. So before getting to the biblical evidence for rejecting Young Earth creationism, let’s first look at just one line of evidence for rejecting Darwinism.
Charles Darwin had a huge problem from the beginning in trying to convince educated scientists that all life forms were the result of blind chance. According to Darwin, life evolved because of myriads of very small changes in various life forms over a very long period of time. Yet, the fossil record shows the exact opposite, and here’s why.
Fossils show us that everything from primitive trilobites to Tyrannosaurus Rex were fully formed, and we see the same thing in today’s world: an array of fully developed life forms—dogs, cats, and cows—each fully formed with great variety within its own kind. Amazing sea creatures and birds of all kinds are fully functional, yet we are told that all evolved from some “lesser forms.” Children are taught in school that birds came from reptiles, but simple logic dictates that if evolution were slow and gradual, there would be far more transitional fossils than there would be of either birds or the reptiles from which they supposedly evolved. Yet the mythical transitional reptiles needed by Darwinian evolution only exist in artists’ conceptions.
Michael Denton explains the problem in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. “But as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?” (p. 157). These missing transitional fossils were a problem for Darwin from the beginning. While less thoughtful men were more easily persuaded by Darwin’s assertions, learned scientists of his day immediately recognized there were serious problems with his theory, especially when it came to the fossil record. Bill Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything, explains: “On the Origin of Species was an immediate commercial success, but rather less of a critical one. Darwin’s theory presented two intractable difficulties. It needed far more time… and it was scarcely supported by fossil evidence. Where, asked Darwin’s more thoughtful critics, were the transitional forms that his theory so clearly called for? If new species were continuously evolving, then there ought to be lots of intermediate forms scattered across the fossil record, but there were not” (p. 389).
In fairness, Bryson has a footnote alleging that a transitional form had been discovered: “Archaeopteryx seemed to be… a creature halfway between a bird and a dinosaur. (It had feathers, but it also had teeth)” (p. 389). But even here, Bryson admits that this find was both controversial and woefully inadequate to provide much support for Darwin’s thesis: “It was an impressive and helpful find, and its significance much debated, but a single discovery could hardly be considered conclusive” (p. 389).
When Darwin developed his theory, he might have had excuse for not finding any intermediate life forms, but time has not been his ally. “The absence of intermediates, although damaging, was not fatal in 1860, for it was reasonable to hope that many would eventually be found as geological activities increased… Only a small fraction of the hundred thousand or so fossil species known today were known to Darwin. But virtually all the new fossil species discovered since Darwin’s time have either been closely related to known forms or, like the Poganophoris, strange unique types of unknown affinity” (Denton, pp. 160–161).
So where are these missing links? We see dinosaurs and thousands of strange extinct species. We see modern species, but each is complete in itself, and there is no hard evidence that one kind ever became a different kind. We readily admit that a great number of varieties can be bred within a particular kind—for example, there are many different breeds of dogs, but all are still dogs, just as all cats are still cats, and Darwin’s finches are still finches. The many thousands of fossils linking one kind to another kind simply are not there in the abundance they should be expected according to Darwinian evolution! Such “missing links” are conspicuous by their absence.
Students are shown genealogic trees supposedly demonstrating how simple life forms gave rise to more complex life forms, but where is the hard evidence that one kind ever became a different kind? It doesn’t exist! Where these links are found is in the imagination of men’s minds!
Michael Denton powerfully summarizes the situation:
The overall picture of life on Earth today is so discontinuous, the gaps between the different types so obvious, that, as Steven Stanley reminds us in his recent book Macroevolution, if our knowledge of biology was restricted to those species presently existing on Earth, “we might wonder whether the doctrine of evolution would qualify as anything more than an outrageous hypothesis.” Without intermediates or transitional forms to bridge the enormous gaps which separate existing species and groups of organisms, the concept of evolution could never be taken seriously as a scientific hypothesis (pp. 157–158).
Why is it, then, that the evolutionary theory is seen as fact, when in fact, no compelling hard evidence exists? Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge admit the following: “The general preference that so many of us hold for gradualism is a metaphysical stance embedded in the modern history of Western cultures…” (“Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered,” Paleobiology, 3:115–51, p. 145, quoted in Denton, p. 70).
In other words, the evidence for gradual, Darwinian evolution is based on philosophy and faith, rather than on scientific evidence. But how can this be? How could our modern, supposedly enlightened and scientific world come to believe so strongly and wholeheartedly in an unproven theory? As Denton explains: “Changing one’s interpretation of the world is not, however, the same as establishing a new fact. The facts were the same in 1850 as they were in 1870, only the perception of them had changed” (Denton, p. 74).
Over time, what was recognized as theory, even metaphysics or philosophy, was accepted and reinforced before all the facts were in. There was faith that, in the course of time, thousands and even millions of missing links would be found, but time has proved otherwise.
Such lack of support for evolution plagues the theory in a number of ways. For example, biologists had no understanding in Darwin’s day of the complexity of the microscopic cell. Even today, biology students hear misleading terms such as “a simple cell” when cellular life is anything but simple. With advanced knowledge of the structure of cellular life, faith in blind chance has become blind faith. This, however, has not awakened people to discard the irrational. As Denton explains: “The fact that every journal, academic debate and popular discussion assumes the truth of Darwinian theory tends to reinforce its credibility enormously. This is bound to be so because, as sociologists of knowledge are at pains to point out… the plausibility of any theory or world view is largely dependent upon the social support it receives rather than its empirical content or rational consistency. Thus… the validity of Darwinian theory… could not even conceivably be wrong” (Denton, pp. 74–75).
Sadly, just as today’s evolutionists carelessly accept false assumptions, so Young Earth creationists have also built their worldview on incorrect assumptions. They assume from a casual reading of scripture that the earth and the entire universe were created about 6,000 years ago, but does the Bible really say this? On the surface it may seem to do so. Notice in the book of Exodus: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11).
Is it possible that there is more to this passage than first meets the eye? Is it possible that a careless assumption has been made? Why did the English language translators say, “In six days the Lord made,” instead of, “In six days the Lord created the heavens and the earth?”
Details are often lost when translating from one language to another, whether it be Hebrew to English, or French to Chinese. Translators understand that there are two different Hebrew words involved in this subject, and that brings us to the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. Here we have the word created instead of made: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word translated created comes from the Hebrew, bara’, whereas the English word made comes from the Hebrew ‘asa or yasar. Now this is no small difference. The very highly respected Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) explains: “The root bara’ has the basic meaning ‘to create.’ It differs from yasar ‘to fashion’ in that the latter primarily emphasizes the shaping of an object while bara’ emphasizes the initiation of the object” (#278a, p. 127).
In other words, bara’ means the very beginning of something. Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Nothing physical existed prior to their creation. Today scientists tell us the universe was created in what is commonly called the “Big Bang.”
As almost everyone today understands, matter is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of even smaller particles. The current belief among scientists is that the entire material universe was once concentrated into a space much smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. As Bill Bryson brings out, the Big Bang that created everything that we see and feel—everything that we call matter, everything that exists—began from nothing: “And so, from nothing, our universe begins” (A Short History of Nearly Everything, p. 10). Most surprisingly, the Bible and science agree on this point (see Hebrews 11:3).
Genesis 1:1 tells us that there was a beginning to matter, as most scientists affirm. Now continuing with the TWOT on the definition of bara’, “…since the primary emphasis of the word is on the newness of the created object, the word lends itself well to the concept of creation ex nihilo [from nothing]…” (#278a, p 127).
As we can see, we have two very different words. When translated into English, one means create, as from nothing, and the other means to fashion, or make, something out of pre-existing material. Continuing in TWOT: “The use of bara’ in the opening statement of the account of creation seems to carry the implication that the physical phenomena came into existence at that time and had no previous existence in the form in which they were created by divine fiat. The use of ‘asa may simply connote the act of fashioning the objects involved in the whole creative process” (TWOT, #1708a, p. 701).
Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but verse 2 indicates something happened after the original creation. Again, English translations often obscure the meaning a little when it uses the verb was instead of became as the Hebrew word is translated elsewhere (Genesis 2:7, 10): “The earth was [or became] without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.”
The words “without form, and void” are translated from two words in the original Hebrew, tohu and bohu, that are used together only here and in two other passages of Scripture, and those other two occasions use those Hebrew words to describe massive destruction as a result of sin (Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). The Hebrew word translated “without form,” tohu, is found in sixteen additional verses, and in each case it is used in a negative context of something that is totally worthless, empty, or in a state of confusion. Yet God tells us in Isaiah 45:18 that He did not create the earth in such a state of confusion. With this in mind, we ought to wonder why and how the earth came to be in the condition we find in Genesis 1, verse 2.
In Isaiah 14 we read of a rebellion by a powerful angelic being who tried to take over the rule of the universe from his Creator: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars [or angels] of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (vv. 12–14).
This rebellion is also spoken of in Ezekiel 28 where the chapter begins with the prince, the human ruler of Tyre, but transitions to the fallen angelic power behind the prince. “You were the anointed cherub who covers.… You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.… Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones” (vv. 14–16, see also vv. 12–13).
We cannot know for certain that it was this rebellion that brought the age of the dinosaurs to an abrupt end, or whether the rebellion took place at a later time. There is much we do not fully understand, but it is evident from Genesis 1:1–2 and other scriptures that the physical universe was created but later came into disarray due to an angelic rebellion. And it was after this rebellion and the destruction that we come to Genesis 1:3 where God began to reshape and refashion the earth.
The world we live in today is a very different world from that of the dinosaurs. Man and tree-sized reptiles do not seem to have co-existed, and the best understanding of the geologic record indicates very clearly that we have not done so. By the time man came on the scene, much of the “Jurassic world” was buried under mountains of earth.
Young Earth creationists try to explain all the geologic strata, laid down layer upon layer with all the fossils found in it, as the result of the worldwide flood of Noah’s day. Few credible scientists will give even the least attention to such thinking, and for good reasons. Though Noah’s flood did take place, a universal flood 4,000 years ago doesn’t explain a world filled with dinosaurs. The geologic record shows no evidence of man and dinosaurs co-existing. While we might quibble about how accurate radiocarbon, potassium-argon, or other scientific dating methods truly are, if we put aside preconceived bias we have to agree that the earth is significantly older than Young Earth creationists are willing to admit. Even granting some uncertainty in the various techniques, scientific dating methods and other considerations—such as how long it takes light to travel from distant stars to the earth—collectively paint a convincing picture of an earth and a universe that is far older than 6,000 years. And, as we have seen, these facts do not contradict the Bible. Though mankind and the life we see today were, indeed, created 6,000 years ago—just as the Bible says—the earth has a much older history, with plenty of room for dinosaurs in its ancient past, before the destruction described in Genesis 1:2.
Now this does not mean we have all the answers to earth’s mysterious past. We don’t. The so-called “gap theory”—or “ruin-restoration theory”—that we have explained here has been rejected by many. But it is, to date, the best explanation to harmonize the clear truths of the Bible and the overwhelming evidence of science.
We should neither take current scientific thinking to be the final answer nor totally discount everything in science. Where there is hard evidence that does not contradict God’s word, we should accept it. But when humanly conceived theories, such as Darwinian evolution, are not supported by hard evidence and clearly contradict God’s word, we should fearlessly discard them.